Last night our congregation shared the first-ever congregational meeting of New Springs Community. The business was...business. We elected elders, amended a by-law, approved the pastor's terms of call, and took a vote of support for the budget. But throughout the evening I was thinking about all that God has been doing, and all that is yet to come. Let me take you back...
A year ago our congregations hadn't met. The congregation of New Summit Church held an annual meeting. Times had been challenging, and 2014 had been difficult. But the congregation was ready to move forward, just wondering how that would happen. As part of our meeting that evening, Matt Wood agreed to lead a conversation on, "Alternate Uses of the Property." The topic was intentionally open. The property could be sold, leased, rented, shared, or creatively divided. We were open to partnerships with other congregations, with local business, and with non-profit organizations.
As part of his work, Matt contacted other congregations.
(Pastor's note: I was optimistic but realistic. Churches are all working hard, but mostly in silos. We aren't necessarily antagonistic toward other churches- there is great work being done for the Kingdom of God in our city. Our time and energy, however, are usually spread so thin that we just can't absorb the idea of one more conversation, or a partnership, or some other way of looking at ministry in the community. I'd reached out before. Crickets...silence...no response. But I knew God had a plan, and that our congregation was a part of it. Call it skepti-optimism. Or opti-skeptical. I trust God, and I trusted Matt, so, "Ok, let's do it." Oh, me of little faith!)
We were (I was) stunned by the number of responses. In addition to the one you know the most about, we've built a better relationship with our neighbors on either side, Cornerstone and St. Anne's. The most significant response, however, was from a small congregation called Summit Springs Community Church. Pastor Corey and I were meeting Matt for breakfast in March. We were friends before breakfast was over. I think Matt even paid, which was a bonus!
The rest you know, and the story continues. One year. What a difference a year makes. I'm deeply grateful, of course, to the Lord, to the members and leaders of the church, and to Matt in particular for his leadership and faith during a challenging period in his own life. I'm excited about the future. I know the journey is just beginning. I know there are more opportunities, and more challenges, ahead.
I'm also seeing so many connections between the story of New Springs Community and the spiritual formation of any individual who responds to the call to follow Jesus Christ. Here are a few:
God promises his presence and his kingdom, but not a guarantee about our circumstances.
The Lord is always on the move. To follow Jesus is so much more than a one-time decision. Following Jesus is a moment-by-moment decision.
To join God's mission is to look at the world differently. This is why one of the great themes of biblical prophets is the call to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. When we keep looking at life through our old lenses, we miss the movement of God.
We discover our greatest friends, not in our search for friendship, but in our discovery of the ones who come alongside us to share God's vision and mission.
The call to follow costs us something.
The call to follow is never about survival, always about mission.
The world offers us convenience or coercion. The Gospel offers us call and covenant. The first two are crumbling structures of death that are toxic to faith. The second two offer life, adventure, hope, meaning, purpose, and eternity.
I'm so grateful to be one of the pastors of New Springs Community. While the last few years were among the most difficult of my professional life and personal life, I'm so glad I listened for the still, small voice of God's Spirit, and stayed to see what might happen. We have an amazing opportunity to love God, to love each other, and to humbly offer ourselves in service and love to our community. I guess that means that last night's meeting was much, much more than a meeting, wasn't it?